Another Christmas

16
on walden pond

Two things are certain

You get into the homestretch,

head for Christmas,

and undoubtedly

there will be fighting

in the Middle East

and Apple,

Apple will launch

yet another product.

But I am no longer

keeping track.

Thanksgiving Day

The hibiscus, patterns in the tablecloth, remind me of home. Home. This is home now. But I wonder, do they think of us as they prepare to eat their Thanksgiving meal? Then again, maybe they wonder the same thing about us.

A Bay Area Year

Ode to the Seasons

From the East Bay, to the peninsula, to the foothills and into the Santa Cruz Mountains, it has been a glorious year. Winter is now just around the corner. Let’s hope there will be lots of rain from now on in.

The Bay Area had its first significant end of year rains, a small storm, in October. This ended our normal six-month dry spell. Fire season, typically over by October, November, is but a distant memory, or at least so one hopes.

The second set of rains came along this weekend, causing M. to cancel our hike across the Monte Bello ridge. I guess she knows best. She, after all, looks into a foggy mountainside while I enjoy a sunny, no-fog drip in my corner of the Bay Area. A walk in the mist and fog would have been muddy but fun. Oh well, soap-making and a walk around the farm were equally fun and muddy.

The above photograph of a persimmon tree laden with fruit was taken today at Hidden Villa. The tree stands like a lone sentinel across from an outdoor kitchen. It is now mid-November, and it is a misty, alternately sunny and cloudy, slightly chilly, wonderfully wet day here in the Los Altos Hills. Little squirrels, why so lazy? The persimmons are beginning to rot on the tree. Why don’t you get to work and eat them up or is it that you are waiting for the interns to harvest and feed the fruits to the farm animals? Hmmm, I wonder if persimmon would be a good addition to the next batch of soap?

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A Painting for Each Season

There’s a New Palette on the Landscape!

The rains have begun. Small streaks of verdant green are beginning to show through brown and golden grasses on hillsides and mountain slopes. There’s a new palette on the landscape. Goodbye summer sounds and colors. I will miss you. But there’s new joy to be found in the outdoors.

Tick season is over. No more checking your clothing, hair and skin for ticks after a good tromp through the woods or alongside stream banks, lakes and ponds. And the bird sounds I’m hearing now are different too – less querulous – methinks. Summer browns and gold, you were beautiful while you lasted. See you again, same time next year?

Last Saturday’s swath of golden grass along Monte Bello Ridge is, I’m guessing, already becoming less brittle, less gold. Little field mouse and rabbits that I encountered on my walk last weekend, have you found shelter from the rains? Are you as happy as I am to revel in this new season? Do you see the splashes of green that I imagine are starting to color your world?

Photo by Jack Kelly Clark.

There are olives to be picked before olive fruit flies get into the crop. Little pests! You arrived here about twelve years ago. How did you get here and why are you so destructive? Maybe this year I’ll join in harvesting the fruit before you invade the crop. Perhaps I’ll even learn how to remove the tannic acid from the olives to make them tastier and sweeter.

This fall is already shaping up to be a very busy one. There are several unfinished paintings in different stages, spread out around my studio. And there is the old camera I bought that I haven’t yet taught myself to use. But who’s complaining? Not me!

Up and over the hills at Rancho San Antonio, habitat restoration awaits: We will be installing protective cages around oak trees as we try to give them a chance to grow. Along Jasper Ridge a long awaited hike is finally taking shape, thanks to a lovely, yet unseen Stanford sophomore. Thank you, Laura!

Before I go, two sobering thoughts:

My beloved New York City – along with an extensive stretch of the eastern seaboard – and my old island home of Jamaica are still trying to recover from last week’s hurricane; and it wasn’t so long ago that we were buying and selling human beings in this country. Last week an American friend sent me a copy of this 1830s “For Sale” poster. It is a sobering reminder that in another time, in this place, President Obama never could have become president and he and I would have both been slaves.

For Sale

St. Thomas People

“It don’t make any sense you put your hand on your head and bawl; what you going to bawl for? Tell me….”

-Seventy-nine-year-old Hazel McLean’s response to the destruction of her home in White Horses (St. Thomas, Jamaica) by Hurricane Sandy.

Whether you put your hands on your head and bawl or don’t put your hands on your head and bawl, one thing that Jamaican children know about hurricanes and floods is this: There will be plenty of water to play in and a whole heap of school closings because of dangerous weather conditions. (Translation: “Whee!”)

Growing up on the eastern end of Jamaica in the parish of St. Thomas, I knew what these children know: The little ditty we’d been taught about hurricane season isn’t always true. “October all over,” proves to be untrue in 2012 as once again, a late-season hurricane lashes the island and Hazel’s home and is especially cruel to the people living in the eastern parishes of St. Thomas and Portland.

October is probably the gloomiest, darkest month on the island. Storms, floods and tropical depressions all make for dark, overcast skies and many rainy, sunless October birthdays. Here now, is the little ditty about hurricane season. It and Hazel’s phrase, “What you going to bawl for, tell me,” linger on from my childhood. Maybe in a later post I will write about this phrase and another one from many a Jamaican childhood: “You want something to cry for? Ah give you something to cry for!”

Ditty about hurricane season

June too soon

July stand by

August look out

September remember

October

all over.

Map of Jamaica (the parish of St. Thomas is to the extreme right, bottom of map)

All the photos in this post belong to Garfield Robinson (photos taken in the parish of St. Thomas, Jamaica,  end of October 2012).

2,000+ Year Old Trees and Such, Oh My!

Some of earth’s largest trees are here in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Sequoia, the nation’s second national park, was established in 1890. The largest of the large trees in these two parks is the General Sherman, a giant sequoia that stands 274 feet tall with a base diameter of 36.5 feet. The shot to my left is my favorite photograph from my walk among the big trees. These trees look as if they are marching right along with me. No, that is not the General Sherman.

A Park is Born

As late as the 1860s, people came from all around to chop down the big trees in the Sierras for lumber. Thanks to John Muir’s nature writing and newspaperman George Stewart’s editorial comments, public opinion led to the formation of Sequoia National Park a few decades later. Today, there are a number of trails leading park visitors to the few isolated groves of sequoias that remain in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Some of these trees are said to be over 3,000 years old!

Mountain yellow-legged frog, courtesy/Adam Backlin, USGS

Endangered Species

Although the sequoias are not an endangered specie, other plants and animals in the park are. The mountain yellow-legged frog, the highest-dwelling amphibian in the United States, is one such creature. It lives along the headwaters of the Kaweah River in Sequoia National Park and hibernates nine to ten months of the year. Its numbers have collapsed by about ninety percent. For more information on this once-abundant frog, read John Upton’s 2012 Bay Area Citizen Wildlife Magazine article at http://www.baycitizen.org/wildlife/story/once-abundant-frog-may-deemed-endangered/

Of Beetles and Rocks

photo courtesy of MCZ Type Database @ Harvard Entomology

Trachykele opulenta Fall, a bore beetle, may or may not be threatened. It was discovered at Beetle Rock in Sequoia National Park around 1906. Because these beetles live in tree tops during their flight period, they are seldom seen. Their status has not been evaluated.

The photograph above is of an adult Trachykele opulenta Fall. This particular specimen was collected from Beetle Rock in 1906. It is part of Harvard University’s H.C. Fall Collection. If you go to Sequoia National Park, visit Beetle Rock. Maybe you’ll spot one of these creatures. I didn’t, but lying on this mass of granite enjoying the sun and views was enervating. When you visit Beetle Rock also go see The Sentinel tree, a 2,200 year old sequoia  that is just a stone’s throw away from the rock. Of course, don’t forget to go see the rest of the mighty giants in the Giant Forest.

Below are photos of:

  • Beetle Rock where Trachykele opulenta Fall was discovered around 1906, and
  • two of the mighty trees, the Sentinel and the General Sherman.
beetle rock, i
2,200 year old Sentinel Tree
General Sherman Tree, older than the Sentinel Tree(?)

Crystal Cave

About a forty-minute drive from our lodge (Wuksachi Lodge) is the marble karst Crystal Cave. Temperatures in the cave remain constant at about 58 degrees year round so there is no need to worry that it will be too hot or cold when you visit. A lightweight jacket is sufficient to keep you warm.

Crystal Cave consists of several large rooms with the most intricate designs. The patterns on the walls and ceilings will most certainly turn up in my paintings. The marble, the shiny crystal-like sparkles within the karst, the patterns that remind me of brain coral, all are incredibly beautiful. Look closely at the photographs below and see if you see any of the figures I saw in the formations.

Details to note
  • There is a half mile walk down to the cave. (Give yourself plenty of time to stop and enjoy the waterfall on your way down.)
  • Crystal Cave is open from mid-May through November.
  • Tours last around 45 minutes and tickets sell out fast. You must purchase your tickets in advance. (We bought ours at the Lodgepole ticket office.)
  • The last tour of the day is at 4:00 p.m.
  • Tours cost $13. (There is a candlelight tour that costs a few dollars more. These are offered from the end of June until mid-August.)

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Moro Rock

Oh boy, Moro Rock, elevation 6,400-6,700 feet! Follow the 1/3 mile staircase from the parking lot. You will ascend more than 300 feet to finally reach the summit of Moro Rock. As I made my way up the rock face I was greeted with beautiful panoramas of the Great Western Divide. Awesome! This hike is moderate and took about 20 minutes (minus the time it took me to stop and enjoy the view). Sweet!

view of Great Western Divide, i

If it wasn’t such a foggy day, I would have been able to see the Middle Fork of the Kaweah River which is about 4,000 feet below. Instead, I got this beautiful, ethereal, foggy view. No complaints here.

The Moro Rock hike consists of a series of switchbacks and 353 granite steps to the summit. It is easy in parts and steep in others.

View from Moro Rock, i

view of open cliff face that is Hanging Rock (where I stood earlier!)
Yikes! Overhead view, Moro Rock

If you are afraid of heights, do not look down as you make your final climb to the summit. I was nearly there, forgot, and looked down. Lost my nerve and turned back towards the lower landing. Janice went all the way to the top and took this photo from above. Yes, that’s me, chicken, who turned back when shy just about 20-25 steps to the summit. Maybe next time I’ll make it to the top? I’m coming back to conquer you, Moro Rock (and maybe get a clear view of the river and valley in the canyon below).

shot from atop summit, Moro Rock

For more information on Moro Rock, visit the Sierra Nevada Geotourism site: http://www.sierranevadageotourism.org/content/moro-rock-sequoia-national-park/sie517345097B27D7BA5

Next post, Beetle Rock! (I still have the big trees (sequoias!) and Crystal Cave hikes to share.

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